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Posts Tagged ‘Dan Chiasson’

Staff Picks: A Field in England, A Desert in the Mind

September 12, 2014 | by

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A still from Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England.

Like Nicole, I thrilled to Jed Perl’s essay on Jeff Koons in the current New York Review of Books. I also loved Dan Chiasson’s review of Boyhood in the same issue. In its quiet way this essay amounts to a defense of fiction in the age of social media: “If Boyhood were a documentary, it would involve much more acting, with the subjects self-consciously shaping their on-screen personae (this happens, to an extent, in the Up series). Here, there is nothing to be done: time itself is the real actor.” Both Linklater’s movie and Chiasson’s review reminded me of another experiment with the longue duréeThis Is Autism, the 2011 concept album by Anders Danielsen Lie. American filmgoers know Lie as the brooding lead in Reprise and Oslo, August 31, but he is also an accomplished musician and composer. This Is Autism is a song series built on compositions that Lie made as a kid (starting at the age of ten), then revisited as a grown-up; the music seems to have soaked up a childhood’s worth of listening, mainly to parental vinyl in what Lie likes to call the “autistic” tradition, from Steely Dan and Keith Jarrett to Kiss. —Lorin Stein

For me, the description of Ben Wheatley’s most recent film, A Field in England, was instantly appealing: a handful of deserters from the English civil war traipse across a field; ensnared by an alchemist, they are forced to help him hunt for treasure supposedly buried in the field. Oh, and they’re tripping on mushrooms. The film is moody and spare—it’s shot in black-and-white—and the mind-altering effect of the mushrooms adds another textural layer on the progressing horror, making it strange and abysmal. I kept turning to my husband to ask whether he understood what was going on, thinking that I was missing something. He’d recite the plot, as he’d comprehended it, and I realized that I’d managed to grasp exactly what was going on. It’s just that everything seemed, well, kinda trippy. The setting helps to circumscribe the film’s disturbing events, a theater both expansive and enclosed. (It makes sense that Wheatley’s next film is an adaption of J. G. Ballard’s High-Rise.) When one character tells another that he cannot escape the field, he replies, “Then I shall become it!” —Nicole Rudick

Last week I noted the excellent epigraph to Roberto Bolaño’s A Little Lumpen Novelita, but I neglected to say that the novella itself is excellent, too: brisk, nervous, and curiously compassionate, with a conceit I can only describe as Bolaño-esque. A young woman loses her parents and, to make money, visits a blind, withered bodybuilder who likes to slather her in oil before sleeping with her. As usual, Bolaño’s characters endure their miseries with unnerving equanimity; there’s no amount of suffering, we’re led to believe, that can’t be shrugged at. And since this is Bolaño, the book has a surreal, tragicomic dream sequence. (As Jonathan Lethem pointed out in his review of 2666, M.F.A. praxis maintains that dreams make for dull fiction—digressive, freighted with easy symbolism—but Bolaño writes them often and well, with skewed logic and foreboding mental detritus.) The narrator, Bianca, dreams of plodding through the desert with a heavy, white, possibly flightless parrot on her shoulder: “He weighed too much (ten pounds at least, he was a big parrot) to be carried for so long, but the parrot wouldn’t budge, and I could hardly walk, I was shaking, my knees hurt, my legs, my thighs, my stomach, my neck, it was like having cancer, but also like coming—coming endlessly and exhaustingly—or like swallowing my eyes, my own eyes … ” —Dan Piepenbring

Given that Chaucer provides us with the earliest example of the verb “to twitter,” it seems appropriate that his Twitter persona, “Chaucer Doth Tweet,” has now attracted an impressive 29,800 followers. And he’s not the only medieval writer to venture into social media, with the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich, the poet John Lydgate, and the author Sir Thomas Malory all joining him in popularizing #MiddleEnglish. Perhaps the most surprising member of this group, though, is the late fourteenth-century mystic Margery Kempe, who has not one, but four rival Twitter accounts. Best known for dictating The Book of Margery Kempe, Margery spent most of her life repenting for her sins “wyth gret wepyng and many teerys,” being abused by her local community and abstaining from the “abhomynabyl” act of sex with her husband. While it may initially strike us as astonishing that a mystic visionary should have more official Twitter pages than Jay-Z, the online world has more in common with medieval Norfolk than you might think—maybe Margery can no longer be imprisoned by angry priests, but slander and public shaming are still ever present on the web. As @tweetyng_teres puts it: “dey seyn this creatur cryin / dey haytin #wepyn.” Plus ça change, it seems. —Helena Sutcliffe
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Introducing Our Fall Issue!

September 3, 2013 | by

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Since 1953, a central mission of The Paris Review has been the discovery of new voices. Why? It’s not just a matter of wanting to lead the pack or provide publishers with fresh blood. In “The Poet” Emerson wrote, “the experience of each new age requires a new confession.” That’s our idea, too.

Even by TPR standards, our Fall issue is full of new confessions. Readers will remember Ottessa Moshfegh, the winner of this year’s Plimpton Prize. We think our other fiction contributors—and most of our poets—will be new to you. They certainly caught us off guard.

We also have new kinds of work from writers you do know—a photography portfolio curated by Lydia Davis, and a project more than twenty years in the works: Jonathan Franzen’s translation of Karl Kraus, including some of the most passionate footnotes we’ve encountered since Pale Fire.

Find an interview with groundbreaking writer Ursula K. Le Guin:

A lot of twentieth-century— and twenty-first-century—American readers think that that’s all they want. They want nonfiction. They’ll say, I don’t read fiction because it isn’t real. This is incredibly naive. Fiction is something that only human beings do, and only in certain circumstances. We don’t know exactly for what purposes. But one of the things it does is lead you to recognize what you did not know before.

The Art of Nonfiction with Emmanuel Carrère:

Your first impulse is to be terribly embarrassed by the other’s suffering, and you don’t know what to do, and then there’s the moment when you stop asking yourself questions and you just do what you have to do.

All this plus new poems by former Paris Review editors Dan Chiasson, Charles Simic, and Frederick Seidel.

Subscribe now!

 

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Challenges, and Other News

April 17, 2013 | by

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  • “At times of tragedy, the mind goes to certain favored zones; mine goes automatically to poetry.” Dan Chiasson offers the tested comforts of William Langland.
  • The Los Angeles Times brings us a nifty map of literary LA.
  • The most frequently challenged library book of 2012? Captain Underpants.
  • Bells, whistles, and animation: the so-called next generation of e-books.
  • Flann O’Brien’s “alleged role as author of an allegedly fake interview with John Stanislaus Joyce, father of James Joyce.”
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    A Snail’s Pace

    July 31, 2012 | by

    Edward Lear, self-portrait as snail.

    When John Ashbery reviewed Elizabeth Bishop’s Complete Poems in 1969 for The New York Times, his review was accompanied by an illustration: two giant snails stretching from under their shells to touch one another. Ashbery never mentions the mollusks in his review, but beneath the image is an excerpt of Bishop’s prose poem “Giant Snail.”

    “I give the impression of mysterious ease, but it is only with the greatest effort of my will,” Bishop’s mollusca persona muses, and one senses how very likely a proxy it is for the poet herself.

    Bishop is not the only writer to have found solace or some of herself in a snail. Her coil-shelled critter was an homage to a paean by her mentor Marianne Moore. Moore’s “To a Snail” is a discourse on poetics that culminates “in the absence of feet” and “the curious phenomenon of your occiptal horn.” Moore seized on the snail’s self-sufficiency and endless ability to contract, praising its “grace” and “modesty.”

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    Two Poems: ‘The Crew Change’ and ‘Rice in the Spoon’

    August 11, 2011 | by

    These poems by Don Share bring surprising music and thrilling turns of mind to the matter of everyday life. We especially liked the eerie litany of woebegone objects in “Rice in the Spoon”: “Sea glass beached / on a porch bench” or, better yet, “A brown bust / of a sad man.” Whether Jethro Tull’s Aqualung is or is not a classic is a question Share’s readers are left to settle for themselves. —Dan Chiasson

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    Postcard from Paris

    July 14, 2011 | by

    Dear Thessaly,

    You’re probably still in bed, or finishing up a short story, but here in Paris it’s four o’clock; across the street from my hotel the bells of Nôtre Dame are playing “Three Blind Mice”; and I owe you an update from the Ville-Lumière.

    It’s my first time here in years, since the indoor smoking ban in fact, but no sooner did I get through customs than I started craving a cigarette. I think it must be the strain of reading airport signs in French. This craving intensified in the taxi. By the time I got through breakfast at a tourist café on Saint Germain—jambon beurre, three cafés crèmes—it was time for a Gauloise Blonde and a nap.

    My hosts at Shakespeare & Co. kindly booked me a room around the corner from the famous shop. Mine is the best room the Hotel Esmeralda has to offer, and one of the highest, smelling faintly but not unpleasantly of blow-dryer and dead mouse. It is five flights up. Reaching the top of the stairs, I dropped my bag, conked out, and dreamed of Robert Silvers: he had climbed up after me to inquire about an essay he had written on the early history of The Paris Review—an essay slated to run in our last issue, but it hadn’t.

    This anxiety dream is easy to explain. You see, on the flight over I’d been reading a doctoral dissertation, Enterprise in the Service of Art: A Critical History of The Paris Review, 1953–1973, in preparation for my talk at the bookstore: “The Paris Review: Past, Present, Future.” I had taken plenty of notes, but nothing that added up to a talk.

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